Category Archives: Lifestyle

Is This London’s Smallest Flat?

The property is in one of London’s most sought-after areas and overlooks the exclusive store Harrods.

There is just a couple of tiny snags – the studio flat is the size of a broom cupboard and will cost any hopeful buyer at least £90,000 for the privilege of living there.

The flat on the eighth floor of an upmarket Knightsbridge block, measures only 10ft 4in by 8ft 4in, smaller than a snooker table.

Somehow its previous owners have managed to squeeze in a bed and kitchenette into the main room, and a shower above a toilet in a much smaller adjoining room.

The property has already had 100 responses, 30 viewings and five firm offers after being advertised online last weekend at £89,950.

So far, the top bid from the cash buyers is £120,000. It has an 85-year lease and is currently owned by a company. This is, however, a great little buy – premium location, quirky and at a price unheard of in this part of London.

The new owner will face a £1,000 annual service charge, but the flat has 24-hour portering.

Altogether there are nine tiny flats in the Prince’s Court building on the Brompton Road. They were once used by porters for storage before being converted as studio apartments.

There is speculation that previous owners may have acquired it simply because it comes with a valuable Kensington & Chelsea parking permit.

An Alternative To Just Building More

The answer to every question in housing seems to be “build more homes”? We hear it daily from politicians, house-builders and lobby groups as if it were a mantra. Whatever the housing problem, it seems, the only answer is to build more homes and the way to do it is for government to provide more subsidy to house-builders.

In theology, mantras are not supposed to be questioned, but it’s time we subjected this one to a bit more scrutiny.

We are not saying we don’t need more homes; quite clearly we do in some parts of the country. But addressing it by finding new ways to subsidise housebuilders has not only failed (housebuilding has fallen to 100,000 units a year), it is counterproductive.

Three countries have had big housebuilding programmes: Spain, Ireland and Portugal. Not only do their building booms appear to have worsened their economic situation, the new homes they produced appear to be having little social benefit.

It strikes that the major housing problem in the UK is not supply (technically there is a million house surplus in England), but people’s ability to afford housing. Median house prices are more than six times median earnings in England – double what most experts think is sustainable.

Essentially people’s wealth has not kept up with house prices. Why? Obviously not enough people have seen their incomes rise, but has government policy, introduced with the best of intentions, has made the other side of the equation worse? Subsidies to housebuilders, artificially low interest rates, mortgage rescue, bailing out failing banks and subsidies to social housing have all either helped house prices rise faster than they would have done otherwise, or prevented house prices dropping.

The fallacy with building your way out of the problem is that people still can’t afford the houses you build. This is what Spain, Ireland and, to a lesser extent, Portugal found. In fact to get the building boom going in the first place they had to offer builders big tax breaks and subsidies, and then offer further subsidies to help people buy them. There is a large lobby in this country to do the same here. Apart from whether we could afford such an approach, I just don’t think it works. Housebuilders following subsidy guidelines in Spain and Ireland built houses that people didn’t want and couldn’t afford. People didn’t buy the houses, even when they were subsidised. They remained empty and now, most galling of all, some of them are even being demolished.

You might argue that it’s different in England, but it’s happened on a small scale here too. The last government’s strategy of brownfield development aligned to subsidy programmes like housing market renewal led to a large amount of inner city flat developments. Much of what was built sold slowly and required government bailouts to prevent whole scale abandonment. Even now there are hundreds of empty flats in town centre developments in places like Ipswich. Places which then, and still, claim to have a housing shortage.

It appears that no politician can face it, but the only answer is to let house prices drop to their natural level in relation to incomes. That would require a less-interventionist approach, ignoring the appeals of the housebuilding lobby and having to deal with the consequences of what would undoubtedly be serious human impact through repossessions for example.

But after this had happened house prices would be in balance with incomes and people would buy houses again. This would create the demand that would get builders building again.


Manhattan’s Most Expensive Rental

Despite being on the rental market, it is highly likely the vast majority of students and young professionals won’t be able to afford this property.

The Woolworth Mansion – once dubbed New York’s most expensive house –  is now available to rent for an astonishing $150,000 a month.

But despite the monthly fee being something of an eye opener, there are plenty of features to the house to keep tenants entertained.

He also built two other mansions on the street for his other daughters Edna and Jessie, which the Woolworth Mansion is nestled between.

The extraordinary property in Manhattan’s opulent Upper East Side boasts an incredible ten bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, three kitchens, a wood-panelled library, an elevator, a gym and a garden.

The 18,000-square feet home is also ideal for a good old-fashioned dinner party, as it includes a dining room which seats more than 50 people.

The French Gothic mansion was built in 1916 by dime store magnate Frank Winfield Woolworth for his daughter, Helena.

Speaking to the New York Daily News, broker Paula Del Nunzio, said: ‘It’s a miracle this house survived with so much of the original details intact.

‘The owners … not only restored that original details they found but also renovated the mansion with all modern systems. This house is a prime example of “architecture as art” and there is always a market for that.’

The property was on the market for sale last year. With a whopping price tag of $90million (£56million), it was unsurprisingly dubbed New York’s most expensive house.

The mansion, which at 35ft wide has been completely renovated into a pre-war style, was bought in 1995 for a mere $6million (£3.7million) by the late gym magnate Lucille Roberts, when it was used as a men’s gym.

The mansions built by Woolworth were all constructed by the architect Charles Pierpont Henry Gilbert who designed city and country homes for the wealthy.

Speaking when the house was for sale, Ms Del Nunzio said: ‘Completed in 1916, the imposing limestone façade of this neo-French Renaissance mansion features a central foyer opening to a grand entry hall providing access to the main residence.

‘With a massive fireplace, the enormous entry includes three closets and an elegant powder room, access to a kitchen in the rear as well as the wide landing of the grand master staircase.’

Most Expensive UK House £100 Million

A breathtaking mansion built for a sugar magnate has become the most expensive house for sale in Britain at £100million – and even the estate agents’ brochure will set you back £2,000.

Heath Hall was constructed on London’s most exclusive street – The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead – in 1910 for William Park Lyle of the Tate & Lyle family.

It fell into disrepair until property magnate Andreas Panayiotou bought it in 2006 and transformed it into one of the capital’s finest properties.

He spent £40million renovating the mansion and it is now the most expensive house on the open market in the UK.

The stamp duty alone will cost the buyer £7million – enough to buy a magnificent country home in the Cotswolds.

It is so exclusive that potential buyers will have to undergo a vetting process by agents Glentree Estates before paying £2,000 for the glossy brochure.

The property fell into disrepair after the Bank of China took over the three-storey mansion in the 1950s.

Bishops Avenue is now known as Billionaires’ Row because of the incredible wealth of the residents which include the Saudi Royal Family.

And the person who buys Heath Hall will get bragging rights as one of only a few people in London with a nine-figure valued home.

Mr Panayiotou employed a team of 120 tradesmen for the renovation, adding a further 8,000sq/ft to the already substantial 19,000sq/ft.

He was ranked 200th in last year’s UK Rich List after building up a £400million property empire, a remarkable achievement given that he suffers from dyslexia.

He learned to memorise words, but never did learn to read in the conventional sense, leaving school at 14 without a single O-level.

But despite his lack of qualifications, he went on to achieve stunning business success.

The son of Greek-Cypriot immigrants, Mr Panayiotou was raised in London’s East End.

As a young man working for his father, he bought a small property in Islington, converted it into flats, and started what would become one of the biggest buy-to-let empires in Britain.

In 2007 he sold thousands of flats, focusing instead on building a portfolio of hotels.

Mr Panayiotou lives on a 20-acre estate in Epping Forest and owns £40million Gulfstream G450 jet, a £12million Mangusta 130 yacht, and two Cessna Citation jets.

The home, set in 2.5-acres of manicured gardens, now boasts 14 bedroom suites, six reception rooms, a drawing room, dining room, family room, sun room and snooker room.

There is also a library, home cinema, steam room with sauna, fully fitted home gym and wine cellar with climate controlled temperature.

Twelve types of Italian marble and seven types of wood were used for the bathrooms while the snooker room, office, bar, library and grand staircase are all clad in Oak.

All of the carpentry and hand-carved marble basins were prepared in Italy before being transported to the property.

And for the security-conscious billionaire likely to buy the property, Heath Hall has been fitted with a panic room.

This vault-like room has its own toilet, basin, control panel and separate telephone wires, which cannot be cut.

The job of selling the mansion belongs to Glentree Estates and its managing director, Trevor Abrahmsohn.

Mr Abrahmsohn has sold 95 per cent of the homes on Bishops Avenue over the past 35-years and regards Heath Hall as one of the road’s finest properties.

He said: ‘Heath Hall is one of the largest private homes in the whole of London. It is like a country home in the city, there are private golf courses nearby and the West End it just 15-minutes away.

‘It was the super-mansion of its day and the restoration has been carried out lovingly.

‘Bishops Avenue is like Beverly Hills, it is one of the world’s best addresses. And Heath Hall is one of the finest houses on the road.’